My usual “uniform of the day” is a pair of shorts and a T-shirt and that’s about it. This is Florida—ain’t it nice! Socks are optional and I rarely wear them anymore. But I am out of uniform today. I’m in my old dress-up clothes—the whole enchilada: Slacks that go all the way down my legs; a long-sleeve white shirt and tie; a jacket and polished black shoes that I had to dust off. I don’t get dressed up much anymore except for special occasions like weddings and funerals. Today it’s the latter. She was my best friend’s close aunt. We do not know how long she had been ill, but it had been concealed until only recently. After it became known it did not take but a few weeks to do its nasty deed. She was a young, spry 80, at least when we last saw her.
I know it’s a cliché, but life is fragile and we are too often reminded of that, as we all have been recently by the deaths of several black men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and at those junctures they met up with the wrong person. An entire family, meanwhile, had a huge concrete slab come loose and fall on them. Still others took a seat on an airplane that would not have a normal flight. Death is an everyday occurrence but it manages, for obvious reasons, to cause us survivors more reason to pause that any other event we witness.
I am a big believer in a theory of “time and place” whatever that means. I’ve thought a lot about it, discussed it before in this blog and even wrestled with the concept in my book, THE POPE’S STONE. I guess it is similar to the concept of “your number is up when your number is up.” My wife, for one, believes the day you are born you are assigned an end date. I don’t go that far, but I do believe there are two points that come together at a certain time and place and it is there, at their juncture, that fate will deal with you.
Take an automobile accident involving two cars, for example. Any number of elements dealing with time and place could have—note: COULD HAVE—interfered with the specific perameters of exactly when and where the two cars met. One driver could have forgotten his keys and had to go back into the house to get them. Now, did this contribute to, or prohibit the actual time and place that the two cars were to meet? If the other driver hadn’t run the yellow light two blocks back, that would have delayed him enough from running into the other car…or is it precisely that situation that caused him to run into the other car when he did?
I know it all sounds a little tentative, actually a lot tentative, that time and place control almost everything that we are involved with as we go through life. The meeting or missing of these various points of togetherness go and come every which way and we have no control over them…hence, when your number’s up, your number’s up. The TV show TWILIGHT ZONE was often based on time and place which is maybe why I always hear its theme song rattling in my mind when I find myself in this kind of thinking mode.
But it all comes full circle to my original statement—that life is fragile. Indeed, life’s end–whether caused by a good cell turning cancerous, or a bolt coming loose on an amusement park ride—all has to do with the fragile timing of specific elements meeting at a specific place.
Our lady friend lived a full life for 80 years until something inside her lung started a deadly process just within recent months. Or, if you believe my wife, it was simply sitting there dormant all those 80 years until it was time to “come alive” and eventually cause her death. Medical science is just now getting into learning whether or not these “markers” in us can be identified early on and either be removed or otherwise altered to change course. That would certainly be beneficial for many of us. But still, I’m not sure we’ll ever control or predetermine when another “thing” or another human being will be at a precise place at the precise time at which we are present and our death results. Makes you sort of want to permanently hide under the bed…but who knows what’s under there with you and when it may cause you harm. So come out, come out and live your life to the fullest because it’s too fragile not to.